We are living in turbulent times.
There is political unrest and significant divisions within the country and beyond. The future has never been more uncertain. This is the environment in which students are living and studying – and one that has left many feeling anxious, isolated and like their own future is out of their control.
A university experience isn’t a simple equation of ‘work hard equals success’; there are many factors that can play a part and have a massive impact on the result of a degree.
We offer the opportunities and incentives to help students make the best of their experience with the University.
Giving them the support and advice they need to cope – helping them navigate the sometimes stressful world they live in – but also providing the opportunities to take an active role in their community, whether that be with fellow students or in communities around the city.
Being active, being involved can help with mental health by removing the isolation and giving focus.
Sport is one area that has obvious benefits. Many students use sport to find friendships, be part of a community, and as a positive outlet for their mental health. We’re working hard to create an inclusive and accepting environment within sport so that everyone feels welcome, included, and able to be part of Manchester Met’s sporting community.
Issues like keeping calendars clear from lectures on Wednesday afternoons are important as it ensures all students have the opportunity to do sport without compromising their academic commitments.
Our wellbeing team is also working with students to get them involved with their local communities, empowering them to become community leaders, who will unite students and the local community.
Volunteering is one avenue that students have historically grasped. It is an area that helps them give back to our community and city, while also learning life skills that can help them when seeking employment after university.
But outside the societies and volunteering opportunities, our work is also about identifying those times of year where feelings of isolation might be most prominent.
For example, Christmas is a time of mass-exodus from campus with most students heading home for a few weeks with their families. It is also a period of huge social pressure to have close relationships that you can call on for those few days.
Most of us – staff and students – are pre-occupied by thinking about how we’re going to juggle exam prep, festivities and remembering to write a card for that one family member you always miss off the list. It’s easy to forget that this isn’t the case for everyone and there are so many students who don’t go home for Christmas or may not have family or friends to spend the day with.
That’s why The Union will host Christmas dinner this year for those that are still on campus over the festive season, so nobody has to spend the day alone.
Isolation can also occur if there are restrictions on students’ ability to meet people. What’s the use of us creating opportunities if the campus isn’t accessible? We want to make the campus as accessible as possible for everyone, and by speaking to students, we’ll be making sure that everyone can access everything and there are no literal barriers for them to overcome to achieve their dreams at Manchester Met.
The Union is a place of never ending change and this year is no different. We’re here to make changes that are important to the students at Manchester Met and make a difference with issues that really matter to them.
We’ve not set ourselves an easy task for this year, and it’s going to be a busy one, but we can’t wait to get stuck in.